What better book to review for Valentine’s weekend than one about relationships? This week I look at Succulent Wild Love by SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) and Dr. John Waddell.
Come on, admit it. When you found out SARK had found someone and they were engaged to be married, you felt protective and a little skeptical. Could there be someone good enough for SARK? After all, you’ve been reading her for, what? Twenty-five years now? You feel you know her. She’s shared intimate details of her journey in her fifteen books, always managing to wrangle inspirational messages from the toughest of personal challenges. And then, before you had a chance to get used to the guy, they were announcing they were writing a book together.
Yeah, sure, you thought. What, can he draw? Doesn’t matter, because we already know he can’t draw like she can, because nobody can. Can he create beautiful, whimsical, supportive messages that speak to our most vulnerable and fearful places? Can he show us how to creatively shift and heal our hurt and sticky places?
After reading Succulent Wild Love, it’s clear that Dr. John Waddell, open-hearted and wise partner to our dear SARK, is both adept at navigating the sometimes rocky terrain of the heart and able to deliver the wisdom he’s attained from deep self-examination in a way that feels as supportive, loving and transformative as we have come to expect from SARK herself.
What Succulent Wild Love gives us is a treasure chest of wisdom we can apply to our own relationships, no matter where we are on the spectrum from single to searching, from hitched to unhinged. There’s something for everyone in this dense and rich material, which pays ample attention to self love and self care as well as dealing with the pitfalls of interrelating intimately. Clearly, John and Susan, as we come to know them in example after example from their current and past experiences with intimacy, have each done their research.
The premise of the book is that in the lead-up to meeting each other, both authors went through a process of deep personal growth which lead them to the point where they were ready for this relationship when it showed up in their lives. Susan, whose territory has always been dealing with issues of self love, inner critics and inner wisdom, developed and perfected three powerful principals that helped her move beyond previous limitations in relationship. John, meanwhile, also taking his past experience and interacting deeply with its lessons, brought three other enlightened principals to the partnership. Together, these are the “six powerful habits for feeling more love more often” of the book’s subtitle.
But Succulent Wild Love is more than six powerful habits, some workbook items, happy SARK squiggles and loving guidance. It manages to affirm and reassure the reader wherever they may be on the spectrum that it’s okay to be there, that relationships are hard, and no matter what you choose as your personal path, it’s possible to experience more love more often. Reading this book as a partnered person, I found plenty of pithy areas for further exploration, including ideas like understanding my “love symbols” in relationship, and the possibility of finding Joyful Solutions instead of settling for compromises that please no one. I imagine that if I were not partnered, I would find it reassuring to know that Susan struggled and gave up a few times while doing her inner work before finally being ready to accept an intimate relationship, and that John lost the love of his life several years prior to meeting Susan.
Through generously sharing their losses, failures and missteps, Susan and John send the clear message that there’s always hope, no matter what it is you’re hoping for. This message is reinforced by other first-person, thoughtful musings interspersed throughout the book on the subjects of relationship styles, expressing love, navigating differences, and overcoming unhealthy relationship patterns.
My overarching response to this book is that it’s a reference book more than anything else – a colorful, illustrated reference book for untangling relationship conundrums as well as a model for having a healthier relationship with oneself. With tenderness, sensitivity, humor, and kindness, SARK and Dr. John Waddell have given us a wonderful gift in Succulent Wild Love.
The bottom line: Read this book if you want take on relating intimately that you won’t find anywhere else, the kind of advice you can put to use right away, whether you’re partnered or not. This book would be especially helpful for healing and moving on from previous relationship “failures” and losses. Caveat: As with all workbooks and how-tos, it works best if you actually do the exercises.